The painter Nadja Gabriela Plein

You worked many years as a classical music composer. How did you come to art?

I have always been drawing. Before I started studying music at university I felt torn between following studies in fine art or music composition. Whilst working on my doctorate I became increasingly aware of how the music I was writing was a visual thing in my mind and it started to feel like I was translating rather than speaking my native language. So, after completing my doctoral degree, I decided to focus entirely on drawing and painting. Conversely, I believe that the time spent composing music has formed my creative voice in an important way that comes through in my paintings. There is often a sense of rhythm and a feeling of impermanence, of transience in my work.



What is your artistic singularity?

The singularity of my work comes from this specific conglomerate of (ever-changing) things that come together in a particular way in my person and work. These include an emphasis on the material, a special kind of attention to physical medium of the paint, and a playful improvisatory interaction between the painter and the paint; the musicality, rhythm and dancing quality of flux; that place between the abstract and the thing in the world that seems to have something to do with the quality of our attention. (For instance, have you ever noticed how strange something everyday – such as walking up the stairs – becomes, when we really give it our full attention?)

Where do you take your inspiration from?

My paintings arise gradually through a process of improvisation, responding to the material as it is on the canvas, on the brush, my hands, my arms. There is a sense of careful watching combined with the joyful actions of being a body with paints. My working process is informed both by my background in music (particularly the practice of improvisation) and my mediation practice (paying attention to the material, the body and the painting as it emerges, just as it is right now).


13.03.2015 (2), Oil of Canvas, 2015, 61×76 cm

Do you change your technique from time to time?

My approach based on improvisation and interaction with the work as it develops stays the same but I do change materials. Changing materials every now and then (different surfaces as well as different paints, pencils, inks, etc.) is part of what keeps my practice alive.

What have been your highlights of your artistic career so far?

I really enjoyed my two-person show with Rosa Nguyen ‘Conducting the Surface’ at Bearspace, London, in Spring last year and a second show with Bearspace at ROSL in London.

Also: talking on Southbank Radio about the influence of music on my work, being included in the book ‘Just add Watercolour’ by Helen Birch, being a prizewinner at ArtHub Print Open 2015 and an amazing residency in a treehouse in the Scottish Highlands (Outlandia) last autumn… to name just a few!


Nadja Gabriela Plein on Singulart:

The artist’s website:

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